Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 6 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
Just when you think you have “Fear the Walking Dead” figured out, it throws another plot twist at you…well several, actually. The latest episode is a bit jumbled when it comes to the narrative, spending an unbalanced among of time with each story arc in both timelines. Still, there is a significant amount of backstory and character development that really props this episode up. The battle against the Vultures is just ramping up and it looks as though deadly consequences are on the horizon.
This episode makes a point to play with the timeline in the same way that “Another Day in the Diamond” did, utilizing the “BEFORE” and “NOW” cards. As the season progresses, the two stories are getting closer and closer to each other and the downfall of the Diamond nears.
At the Diamond, Naomi treats a wound Alicia sustained from a supply run, showcasing that the two have established a working infirmary in the community. Madison arrives and lets them know that they will need to scout for more food, noting that their current rations are being stretched thin. The wound that Alicia has shows just how far the survivors are going to assure that they have a least a small amount of food for the community. A huge aspect of this episode deals with Strand and the guilt he feels as he works on becoming a better person. Luciana questions where he found the truck filled with supplies, and Strand tells an elaborate tale to cover his ass. He checks in with Cole later and it seems as though their relationship is at a bit of a standstill as Cole states that he didn’t rat Strand out because of the possible repercussions he would face; is Cole afraid that Strand would enact physical harm on him? This episode touches base on one of the best dynamics in the series as Madison and Strand have a much-need talk over a bottle of liquor. Strand asks Madison why she saved his life even after he betrayed her and the rest of the Dam community in Season 3. Madison explains that she knows exactly who Victor is and that even though he may make bad choices, he is still a good person. This friendship has been through a lot since the two first met and it rewarding to see them discuss their shared history and love for one another.
A central focus of this episode is on Naomi as even more of her backstory is revealed following the excellent standalone “Laura” that opened her character up exponentially. It’s already been established that Naomi doesn’t like to stay in one place for too long, but this episode shows that she is not only running away from something, but that she is also running to something. She tries to flee the Diamond, but is stopped by one of the residents with a gun as Madison and the others arrive to see what the fuss is all about. Naomi covers herself by stating that she was heading to a location with supplies and seeds to grow crops at the Stadium. Alicia volunteers to come along, but Madison states that she and Strand will go with Naomi while everyone else stays behind to defend against the Vultures. The trio head out together, but stop at a motel for the night so as to not travel in the dark. There are a few roaming Infected in the motel and Madison finds a few cans of food, leading her to realize that a conflict erupted over these basic supplies that ended with people dead; this highlights just how dire the state of the world is while simultaneously showing just how far people will go to keep themselves alive for an additional day or two.
Strand finds a collection of food, mostly consisting of vending machine snacks, that the trio decide to feast upon while talking about their pasts; shouldn’t they have saved the food considering the famine happening back at the Diamond? Anyway, Naomi questions where Strand and Madison came from, prompting them to share that they originated in Los Angeles and later ended up in Mexico before traversing to Texas; there’s a brief mention of their journey across the country when Madison and Strand reminisce about a bar they visited in Roswell, New Mexico. Naomi is hesitant to talk about her past, but reveals that she is taking them to a FEMA shelter that has since been overrun. Going to the shelter with Strand and Madison wasn’t Naomi’s original plan and she explains that she actually was going to leave the Stadium behind when she was caught. Strand really doesn’t want to trust Naomi, noticing her flakiness and cowardice. Madison pulls Strand back and states that Naomi is free to leave if she wishes and that no one would blame her for it. When morning comes, Madison finds that Naomi has left the motel and taken off on her own. This is her what…fourth time fleeing? This woman is a runner.
It’s been apparent since she was first introduced that something is haunting Naomi and that unravels further as she arrives at the FEMA shelter alone. The shelter is filled with Infected, something that really seems to weigh heavily on Naomi. Meanwhile, Madison and Strand try to chart a course to the shelter, realizing they need the supplies regardless of if Naomi is going to help them or not. This is where Strand really opens up and lets Madison know the truth about his bug-out car that he brought to the Diamond. Madison seems a bit taken aback by this, but doesn’t lash out in anger like she did after his betrayal at the Dam. At the shelter, Naomi enters and locates a notebook that appears to contain instructions along with a set of keys. She sneaks around the Infected, but comes across an area of the shelter with children’s drawings on the wall, prompting her to freeze in her place and drop to the ground in a fit of tears. The Infected are drawn by noises she makes and Naomi finds herself on the run from a small horde that chases her through a maze of corridors and cots. It’s important to note that Naomi is unable to kill any of the Infected; she tries, but just can’t bring herself to do so as she tears up at the mere thought of putting any of them down. Before she is completely surrounded, she climbs up to the top of a platform and collapses in sadness, staring down at what is later revealed to be her former co-survivors. Rule number one in the zombie apocalypse: don’t get yourself trapped.
Everything seems quite hopeless for Naomi…and it even looks as though this might be where she actually dies. That simply isn’t the case as Madison and Strand arrive and rescue Naomi from the platform; Naomi initially rejects their help, tossing the keys to them and stating that she is supposed to be here. Strand really jumps into action as he uses rope to create an escape route for Naomi to pull herself across the Infected; this is incredibly similar to the tactic Spencer Monroe used in “The Walking Dead’s” Season 6 episode “Heads Up,” which is an adaptation of a similar moment in the comic series. Madison kills several Infected while Strand helps Naomi off the rope, proving once again that teamwork makes the dream work, especially in the apocalypse. After getting away from the Infected, Naomi finally opens up about what happened to her prior to joining the group and why she has such a somber connection to this location. Naomi reveals that she had a daughter named Rose and that they lived at the FEMA shelter with several other survivors, including a woman that taught classes on survival skills to prepare for the worst (similar to Carol at the Prison in “TWD”). At some point, Rose got extremely sick and Naomi left to find medicine to treat her, hiding her daughter in a closet to prevent the others from finding out and exiling her. Rose apparently died, turned and attacked the survivors, leading to the entire shelter’s downfall. Naomi places all of the blame of what happened squarely on herself and you can feel the pain as Jenna Elfman delivers a wholly emotional performance.
Outside of the shelter is a parked car that Naomi explains was packed by the woman who taught survival classes. She called it the “just in case” truck, which could be used to keep the survivors alive should their shelter fall. There’s a lovely moment as Strand points to a plant growing out of a bag of soil, noting to Naomi that things can always get better and that no one is beyond redemption. The trio arrive back at the Diamond as Nick, Alicia and Luciana step outside to speak with Mel. They basically rub it in the Vultures’ face that they are beating the odds and finding supplies outside of the fifty-mile radius that has been searched. The tables turn a bit as Mel sees that they are basically wasting their time with the Stadium and should just move onto another location that could have more attainable supplies. Mel does impart a chilling warning on Madison before leaving in that bad things always happen and that the community still likely won’t be safe. The mood is more upbeat that in recent weeks as Nick explains that the supplies brought back from the FEMA shelter will allow the community to start over and yield enough food for everyone. Later, Madison speaks with Alicia and hands over keys to a vehicle with the instructions to stash it with supplies “just in case” something goes wrong. Madison is using Strand’s method of putting herself and her family first…and can you blame her? She may be the leader of a community, but the apocalypse basically forces you to look out for yourself in the end.
Following their split from Althea and the others, Morgan and John have been traveling in search of clues that will lead them back to the others. They come across a Vulture named Edgar (Jason Liebrecht), who has been looting a gas station of basically everything, including light bulbs and others random objects. John demands answers from Edgar, yelling at him while holding a pistol to him. The effect of hearing about Naomi is clearly turning him dark, so much so that he even shoots one of Edgar’s fingers off when the Vulture tries to go for his gun. John finds one of the maps that the Vultures carry and questions where they will be meeting next. He also angrily orders Edgar to explain what happened to Naomi at the Stadium, but the Vulture plays coy and states that he wasn’t with the scavenging group at that point. Morgan urges John to ease up a bit before stepping in and telling Edgar to leave and warn his group against going to their meet point. John seems to be uneasy about how the altercation went, showing his discomfort toward his own darker side. On the road, Alicia questions Althea about the rigged machine guns in the SWAT truck. Althea isn’t keen on answering questions, stating that she is the one who asks the questions. She also makes it clear that she will act as a neutral party in whatever happens in the conflict with the Vultures. This is an extremely interesting role for her to play, specifically considering the role that journalists typically play in the real world. There’s also an underlying sense of secrecy still hidden behind Althea’s character. What is she keeping to herself?
The final act of the episode takes place at the Vultures’ meet point as Strand, Alicia and Luciana stage an ambush. Morgan and John arrive instead, leaving the trio confused and angry as Morgan lets them know that he warned the Vultures from coming, noting that they can find another way to move forward without fighting; he even references Nick and states that he should have done more to convince him not to use violence. To the relief of Strand and the others, a caravan of Vultures rolls up the to scene…but they have come armed and ready for a fight, thanks to Morgan’s warning. Mel explains that he is sorry for the killing of Nick, but Alicia retorts by stating that she feels no sorrow over the death of Ennis. The Vultures seem to be far more violent than they were in the “BEFORE” timeline, hinting that a lot has happened between the two time periods. In a drastic turn of events, a Land Rover arrives and a woman steps out, fully outfitted in Vulture-esque garb. To the surprise of everyone, the woman is revealed to be Naomi, alive and aligned with the Vultures. John is most stunned and he walks over to her, but Alicia angrily turns her gun on Naomi and fires a shot. John steps in the way and takes a bullet to the abdomen and collapses to the ground as Naomi and Morgan rush to his aid. “Fear the Walking Dead” is noteworthy for its deadly reunions…and this might just be added to the list. Will John really be the next victim of Season 4? What did Naomi do to make Alicia so angry? WHERE IS MADISON?
“Just in Case” isn’t a perfect episode and does suffer from some issues in regards to the editing and overall scattering of storylines. That being said, there is a ton of strong material here that adds to the mystery element of the season while providing plenty of answers as the climax seems to be near. Naomi’s backstory is devastating and the parallels to other characters in the “TWD” Universe that also lost children help to make viewers sympathize with her; there’s also excellent parallels between her and Strand as both have their own redemption paths. Jenna Elfman delivers yet another incredible performance showing the full ranger of emotions that one would expect a grieving and guilt-filled mother would feel. The setting of the FEMA shelter also deserves praise, adding a layer of realism to the story by showing an example of the government’s attempts to keep things going as the apocalypse struck; FEMA shelters have been seen before in “The Walking Dead” at the high school near Hershel’s Farm and in Downtown Atlanta, both of which were overrun. The mysteries keep piling up and the list of questions continues to grow, but it definitely seems as though the Mid-Season Finale will be very revealing. Is the conflict with the Vultures nearing its end? Who will come out on top?
“Fear the Walking Dead” will take a short hiatus for Memorial Day and will return with the penultimate episode of Season 4A on Sunday, June 3 at 9 p.m. on AMC.